DeLaPortes sold shoes on Market Street for more than six decades
Julius A. DeLaPorte, left, and presumably Edward M. Porter, were in business together at 229 Market St., from circa 1907-1912. The two men advertised second-hand merchandise, tinware and shoe repair. A close look behind the two men shows what looks like a tin watering can, and shoes in the store window. Circa 1912-13, DeLaPorte, after his partner’s death, moved his tin shop two doors to the east, where he would remain in business until his death in 1933. He converted the shop from tinware to shoes during World War I. His son John C. DeLaPorte, took over, and operated a shoe shop until the early 1980s. John C. DeLaPorte died July 1981. Photo contributed by his son, John C. DeLaPorte Jr.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
On Tuesday morning, Feb 13, 1912, a fire broke out on the roof of Levering Hospital, triggering the fire bell atop the nearby Market Street station and signaling the fire horses, driven by F.M. Gay, into action.
While trained manpower and equipment were on site within minutes, a lack of water pressure was blamed for allowing the fire to get out of hand. Under the supervision of Miss Maude Landis, patients had to be evacuated to nearby residences. Despite galant efforts, there was $15,000 damage to the nine-year-old structure.
Watching the scene from across the street would have been among others, Julius DeLaPorte, 44, a tinsmith by trade, and his business partner, 75-year-old Edward M. Porter. They each lived nearby on South Arch Street, and together, they operated a second-hand store and shoe repair business at 229 (soon renumbered 1805) Market.
Within the next year, Edward M. Porter would pass on to eternity, and Julius DeLaPorte would move into a brand new, iron-clad building just two doors to the east of their previous storefront, numbered 1801 Market. There, he would remain in business for the next two decades, until death called on Monday, Jan. 2, 1933.
Upon his death, Julius’ 37-year-old son, John C. DeLaPorte, would step forward to run what had been converted during the first world war into a shoe store and repair shop. And when his sons, in turn, turned 12 during the World War II era, they too would learn primary business skills at their father’s side.
Thus is the time-honored tradition of fathers and sons. John C. DeLaPorte Jr., born in 1935, just two years after his grandfather’s death, is nearly 87 now. His parents, of course, are long gone, as is his younger brother, Daniel. But what remains vivid in his memory are the sights and sounds of this long-ago gone block of Market Street, now paved over as a parking lot adjacent to Eugene Field School.
There were six buildings in all, starting from the playground of Eugene Field school and heading west, to the corner of South Arch street, all on the south side of Market.
“The buildings are still there in my mind,” said John DeLaPorte Jr., this week, in a telephone interview from his home in Wisconsin.
The 1913 Sanborn fire prevention map shows a two-story frame building at 1733 Market, operated in 1916 as a grocery store by Rowan C. and Margaret Jackson.
Next building to the west was a drug store at 1735 Market, operated by Marvel B. and Bertha White.
Next is the iron-clad tin shop (later shoe store) owned in 1916 by Julius DeLaPorte, a shoe repairer, and later by his son John C. The address was 1801 Market.
A small, one-story frame office building was next, at 1803 Market. George E. Wickersham had a barber shop in that location in 1916.
And west of 1803 Market were two older buildings. At 1805, Mrs. Carrie I. Zerbest had a restaurant, and next door to that in 1916, on the southeast corner of Market and South Arch, August Lohmier had a saloon at 1807 Market.
(Beginning in the 1920s, 1805 Market would serve as home to Purity Ice Cream Parlor, operated by Eaver R. Kraus, and mentioned in last week’s story, “The ice cream man.”)
His father’s helper
John C. Delaporte Jr., turned 12 during World War II, and subsequently started helping out at the shoe store.
What he remembers best about the old building is the basement.
“First of all, the basement was totally dirt, the walls were dirt. It was extremely dark down there, just a couple of dim light bulbs. when we’d get a shipment of shoes, we would toss the large boxes into the basement, and when we got a goodly number of them, we’d haul them out and take them to the back of the store, where we shared a fire pit with the grocery store next door.
“In this dim dark basement was, in the far corner, a toilet which just sat on the floor, not in a separate room, but just sitting there. Instead of toilet paper, there was a large cardboard box as tall as the toilet seat, filled with shoe tissues, which you’d use when you needed to.
“One day this fellow who worked for my dad was down there sitting on the toilet. When he was finished he reached into the box to grab a tissue. There was a big rat in this box. When he reached in to grab a tissue, the rat jumped out of the box and ran across his bare legs.
“My dad would keep rat traps down there,” John DeLaPorte continued. “Upstairs, there was a large transom in the floor of the show room. You could hear everything that was going on in the basement. It was quite common, we’d be selling shoes, and we could hear ‘snap’ coming from the basement. We knew another rat had met his demise. I would think to myself, ‘Am I going to be the one to haul that rat up and throw him into the burn pit?’”
South Arch Street
Through the years, a number of members of the DeLaPorte family lived, and did business, near Market Street. The first was August DeLaPorte (born circa 1821) a stone cutter working near Broadway and Maple in 1879. Born in France, he settled on Hannibal’s West End, living with his wife, Margaret, at 101 London Street (later renamed South Arch.) Among their children: Julius, Helena, Leon, Ester and George.
Julius and his wife, Adelia, also made their home on London Street, later renamed and renumbered 321 South Arch. Their children included Helen, Rose, George, John, Lorine and Gladys.
John C. DeLaPorte and his wife, Vivian, raised their two sons, John Jr. and Daniel, in another part of town, at 333 Magnolia, but throughout his life, John Sr., worked at the family shoe store at 1801 Market St.
Working class customers
The DeLaPorte Shoe Store remained in business until the early 1980s. “Customers were the working class, versus the white collar class,” John DeLaPorte Jr., said. “We would sell the medium to lower priced shoes, and a lot of shoes to nurses who worked across the street in the hospital. We had a significant black trade, and a lot of farmers bought work shoes. We sold a lot of kids shoes. Besides, there was a shoe repair shop, and in the back, in a separate room, we sold used shoes. People would come in and buy a few pairs and Dad would give them a little bit for their shoes that were decent and wearable, fifty cents or a dollar. In yellow crayon, he wrote the price on the bottom of the sole.
“In World War II, work shoes were hard to come by. The best leather was going to the armed forces, and the civilian population got inferior leather.
“Farmers had particular problems; manure would eat right through the shoe leather.
“My dad would go out to St. Louis a couple times a year, that’s where the big shoe companies had their headquarters. On buying trips, going into show rooms they’d treat my dad like a king. Once my dad bought a whole lot of used combat boots; we brought them home in the car in gunny sacks. Word got out to the farmers, as quick as he could get them. Finally my dad got a couple of reports from farmers; there was a lump in the toe of one boot, and one farmer found some money wadded inside; another guy found a toe itself. Where did these shoes came from? GIs killed in battle and their boots were repurposed …”
Note: In 1913, at the time of the Levering Hospital fire, Hannibal had 11 full-time paid firefighters and two part-time firefighters. There were nine horses located at three fire stations. The horses at the Market Street station were housed in stalls at the rear of the building.
John C. DeLaPorte Jr., submitted this photo of his father, John DeLaPorte Sr., waiting on customers at his shoe store, located at 1801 Market St., Hannibal, Mo. In the background at right is Ray DeLaPorte, nephew of John DeLaPorte Sr.
Pictured are, front row from left, Adelia DeLaPorte, her daughter, Gladys DeLaPorte, her husband, Julius DeLaPorte, and her son, John C. DeLaPorte Sr. Couple on the back row is unidentified. Julius and Adelia DeLaPorte lived at 321 S. Arch, Hannibal, Mo.
Photo contributed by John C. DeLaPorte Jr.
This advertisement for DeLaPorte Shoe Store was included in the 1929 “Colored Directory” accessed via the Hannibal Free Public Library, web site.
Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on Amazon.com by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Montgomery.firstname.lastname@example.org Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com